Some pretty good military history

In addition to some decent fiction, I also came across some pretty good military history to start 2015.

This volume, which, to be honest I got at my local Barnes & Noble bargain rack, was pretty good.  Covering some major U.S. Special Operations missions since the Vietnam War, it provides a number of small case studies on the good, bad, and ugly of U.S. SpecOps missions.  Although the authors trod some familiar ground with recounting the well executed by unsuccessful raid on Son Toy and the disaster at Desert One, they offer some interesting insight in what those missions ultimately did to create modern US special operations forces and capabilities.  The highly successful missions of the 1990s, one in Desert Storm and the other in Bosnia, validated many of the lessons learned and really paved the way for the success of US SOF after 9/11. 

I thought the chapters on recent missions since 2001 were especially good, since there has not been much history written on the myriad of SOFs missions in the early days of the invasion of Iraq.

 In particular, I think the story of the Special Forces run operation that involved the 173rd AB Brigade making the first mass combat parachute jump since the Korean War into Kurdistan to meet up with Kurdish Pershmerga forces and tie down Iraqi forces north of Baghdad really needs to be told.

The quieter side of SOF is also well represented with the tale of a Green Beret team that set up in the Karbala Gap to watch for signs of Iraqi chemical weapon use as the US forces neared Baghdad during the invasion of 2003. 

The chapters were just the right length and were well illustrated with pictures and the all important maps.

The other book is a new volume on the Battle of Khe Sanh.  This book was brought to me by friends at the New York Journal of Books and my full review is there.

However, as always, I offer here the "rest" of the story.  This was actually a pretty decent battle history and I actually learned a few things.  Vietnam is not one of my specialties, especially since much of the history, even the military history, is tainted by an overly pessimistic lefty viewpoint of the war--but this author was very pro-American, and he unabashedly considered the battle a military, if not strategic victory.

His recounting of the rhythm of the battle, especially the ebb and flow of the many hill fights around the base, and the desperate battle for Lang Vei were particularly well done, in my opinion. 

I have yet to find a really good overall military account of the 1968 Tet Offensive, which encompasses the fights at Khe Sanh, Hue, Saigon, and other cities in a sweeping narrative that relates just how badly the NVA and their Vietcong minions were crushed.  Which was ultimately irrelevant as the lefty narrative began to consume the war effort, wreck LBJs shabby Vietnam policy, and give the North Vietnamese the political victory that their battlefield efforts could not secure.

I am one of those crazy right-wingers that questions whether Vietnam could have been winnable with a better policy and strategy, and the defeat of the Tet Offensive only intensifies my curiosity if things could have turned out better.

In the meantime, both of these books were very good and helped kick start the year.